When ousted lawmaker Don Shooter first acknowledged he might run for office again, the Yuma Republican described his potential campaign as wholly reliant on supporters in Yuma who insisted he make a comeback.
A recent interview and campaign finance records show that Shooter, who was expelled from the Arizona House of Representatives in February for sexually harassing women, took a more active role in launching the campaign than he let on.
Shooter has since acknowledged running a poll to gauge interest in his potential campaign. And in late May, days before the deadline to file nominating petitions, he paid $2,176 for circulators to ensure he had enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Of the 828 petition signatures Shooter filed on May 30, at least 167 of them were collected by paid circulators. That’s roughly 20 percent of his signatures.
Rumors that Shooter might run for the state Senate, where he previously represented Legislative District 13, first began swirling in May, with reports of a robo-poll focused on the Senate GOP primary election. Shooter told the Arizona Capitol Times that he was not responsible for the poll — and why would he be, Shooter quipped, since he had no interest in running again.
“Hell no,” Shooter said when asked if he’d run for office. “I’m a man of leisure and happily enjoying my forced retirement.”
But in a recent interview with Yuma’s News 11, Shooter touted a poll he said was conducted while he was deciding whether or not to run again. Shooter said the poll asked prospective voters whether they would be more or less likely to vote for a lawmaker they knew was thrown out of office for sexual harassment.
He boasted that the voters responded that they would be more likely to vote for such a lawmaker.
On May 24, after his previous denial of any interest in running, Shooter shifted course and told the Capitol Times he was willing to serve again, but only because he’d been approached by a handful of loyalists who urged him to run and were willing to gather signatures to help him qualify for the ballot.
Shooter claimed in May not to care whether they accomplish their goal, but told them, “If you get the petitions, I guess I’ll run… If people want me to work and serve, I’ll go.”
Days later, Elyse Foutz and Darlene Matlewsky, two Sun City West residents, were collecting signatures in the West Valley on Shooter’s behalf. Shooter would pay them $950 each for their services, according to his second quarter campaign finance report, a rate of roughly $11 per signature.
The report also shows a payment of $276 to Diane Burns, owner of Petition Pros. Burns confirmed that she sent a signature gatherer to the West Valley on Shooter’s behalf. It’s unclear how many signatures Petition Pros gathered for Shooter.
Shooter declined to answer questions about the poll he claimed to have run in LD13, but shed some light on why he paid circulators. Shooter told the Capitol Times via text message July 18 that one of his supporters who couldn’t personally collect signatures offered to “give me money and pay to get them (signatures) collected.”
Between April 1 and June 30, only three contributions were made to Shooter’s campaign. One he made himself for $120, and one came from Crystal W. Howell for $2,000 on June 4. The third was an in kind contribution made by lobbyist Gretchen Jacobs for $2,500.
Jacobs said she wrote a check to attorney Tim Nelson to help cover Shooter’s legal expenses as he defended himself against a challenge to his residency, an attempt to have his name barred from the ballot.
Shooter also spent an additional $9,500 from his campaign for Nelson’s services, according to his financial report.
Howell’s contribution would cover most of the $2,176 Shooter spent on signature gatherers, and is the only contribution that could possibly fit Shooter’s description of getting financial aid to pay for signatures.
Howell doesn’t appear to be one of Shooter’s supporters in Yuma, or anywhere in Arizona. Shooter’s latest finance report doesn’t list an address or occupation for Howell, and instead states that the information was “requested.” That means a candidate is claiming to have made a good faith effort to gather the information from the contributor before filing the finance report, according to Elections Director Eric Spencer.
The only available identifying information from the report shows that Howell is a Colorado resident. Shooter did not respond to a call or text asking if Howell is the contributor who he said had helped to pay for circulators.
Most of Shooter’s funds came in the form of loans made by himself and his wife, Susan, to the campaign. Shooter personally loaned himself $1,900 in the second quarter, while Susan kicked in $28,500 combined over two separate loans.T